Hope House MIS Claims Charity of the Year
Mrs Debbie Lennon (Director) said.
“Over the years, Our Managing Director Alan Baillie has raised countless amounts of money for different charities and has done so with humility and discretion. Almost immediately after we told the staff of Alan’s diagnosis, several of them muted the idea of taking up the mantle and fundraising in his name.
We had talked about different Cancer charities / causes and at first we tried to choose one which we thought Alan himself would have chosen. Our ultimate goals were to provide funds to help cancer sufferers; for the vast majority of those funds to be used only to that end; and if possible, for us to actually see locally the difference we could make.
We had heard of a few different homes being opened by larger charities for cancer patients & their families to stay in whilst attending hospital and we quite liked this idea. Hope House Ireland was then brought to our attention and a visit was arranged with Dawn McConnell.
If only I could put across on paper, the experience we had that day. Dawn was lovely, welcoming and friendly from the first hand shake. She was overwhelmed that we had taken time out of our day to come and meet her and see Hope House. She showed us around the small, homely apartment which she currently rents, that is Hope House, with spectacular views across the Irish Sea. Even on this misty, rainy day, we were able to appreciate the view outside the window.
A few simple questions launched Dawn into telling us all about her own personal experiences which led her to open Hope House. We saw a woman who absolutely appreciated the help that was given to her and her husband; when they both had battled cancer, and we saw the passion, joy and hard work involved to pass on the same help to other people who are going through similar circumstances and the genuine compassion and care she had for the people who came through her door.
She recounted story after story of people she had stay in Hope House; people who are facing potentially life changing circumstances and who need a little time away from everyday life but simply cannot afford it. However, we very much got the feeling this was more than just a place to stay in; Dawn makes it much more than that. She provides a listening ear where it is welcome because she has walked in their shoes.
It also became abundantly clear that every penny that was donated to Hope House was used only for the running costs of the rented apartment, small welcome packs for the guests and the building fund for a future purchase of a property. Dawn and her team of volunteers were run ragged with cleaning the apartment and changing the bed linen every few days. There are no wages paid to anyone and Dawn was reluctant to spend any money at all.
Dawn convinced each of us individually before we had even left Hope House, that this was the charity for us to support. She oozed compassion, integrity and love.
In the meantime, Alan was encountering so many people who had lost their income and were struggling to make ends meet following a cancer diagnosis. He asked us to ensure that we continue to do what we can to help other people who walk this road. With his blessing, we officially confirmed our support to Hope House Ireland.
The primary goal was to assist Dawn and her team raise enough money to purchase a property in a nearby location for Hope House. We provided them with a pledge in the meantime to cover costs for TV & internet services for the apartment to enhance the guests’ stay and a laundry service. This was to lighten the load for the volunteers but mostly to make Dawn more available to guests who require a listening ear, a bit of company or even a lift as she would frequently collect guests or take them home.
We are thrilled that our fundraising was a great success, raising a fantastic amount of £145,000 which has enabled Dawn and her team to purchase their own property. This was accomplished through a charity lunch called “In Their Shoes” which was organised entirely by Alan; a mini cycle of 40 miles along the Lagan Towpath followed two weeks later by the 400 mile Cycle of Hope from Whitehead to Cork; and many other smaller fundraising activities throughout the year. We are so thankful to many of our business partners who helped us with our fundraising campaign and absolutely delighted that Hope House now has a permanent home.
Mrs Debbie Lennon
(Director MIS Claims)